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A Worker Falls

Proof again, unions are safer

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A common scene in New York City: an ambulance and EMTs arrive at a non-union construction site. - Mark Abramson for the New York Times

On a job site at 301 Park Avenue, a non-union worker fell from a ladder which resulted in a compound fracture of his tibia. That means his bone was protruding from his calf. According to witnesses he was incoherent with pain.


The construction company was cited by the Department of Buildings for providing defective, unsafe equipment to staff – in this case, it was the ladders – and a temporary stop work order was established on the site. In an image taken in the aftermath of the accident, the not-to-code ladder can be seen in the background as the man lay in pain on the floor.


Stories like this one on non-union work sites are simply all too common. Some non-union companies are accused of cutting corners on materials, safety and more to get their estimates as low as possible in the harsh bidding wars that occur in New York construction. But the result of the corner-cutting is increased harm to their work force.


And it’s backed up by data. New York’s Building Trades Employers Association, released new statistics using data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that shows NYC union construction workers are five times less likely to suffer a fatal accident compared to their nonunion counterparts.

The data continues to pile up. Union workers and union work sites are exponentially safer than non-union workers and sites. Laborers are paying a steep human price.

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The New York City Department of Buildings database shows the recorded violation at the Park Avenue site, with the stop work order highlighted in red, and the defective, unsafe equipment highlighted in yellow.

“[This study] shows that year in and year out, union construction firms are the safest in New York City. That’s because when you have a skilled and experienced union workforce, the quality of work is better and safety is not just prioritized – it’s part of the culture. These statistics make that clear,” said BTEA CEO Lou Coletti.


Union contractors received 33% fewer violations and 25% fewer stop work orders per project than their nonunion counterparts.


Local 3 electrician Robert Holst said, “While every construction job has inherent dangers, it is the training that union building trades members receive during their apprenticeship that makes the difference in regards to a safe job. … There is no substitute for a union apprenticeship program.”


A January 2019 a NY-OSHA report  the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that, “workers die as a result of employer’s disregard for workers’ health and safety and [the report] notes the difference between construction fatality numbers on union versus nonunion job sites, proving that unionized construction jobs keep New York’s workers safer.”

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A photo taken at the scene of the accident shows the injured worker on the floor and one of the defective ladders on the left.

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